Kurt Vile – ‘(watch my moves)’

Sounds like … autumn walks at a slightly different pace.

The Philadelphia-based singer Kurt Vile releases his ninth record right before the northern Hemisphere summer begins, yet his style has something uniquely autumn-esque. The slacker indie folk-rock songs of the unpretentious guitar hero, carry the warmth of summer in their rich bass lines and the laid-back vocals, but they also come with a touch of melancholia of an impending change of seasons. (watch my moves) takes you on a walk through quiet streets framed by orange-leaved trees, the crunch under the soles of your feet as you walk.

After nine records, the singer has the confidence to name the record after his moves, but since his earliest output his moves appeared to be the same ones. Kurt Vile is always walking a little outside of the line, unpretentious slacker vibe, the slightly off-kilter laconic vocals. (watch my moves) is a document of the pace the singer appears to live by. He takes even more space on his ninth record with several songs clocking in past the 6-minute mark. Introspective and observational, the record explores the psychedelic sides of the artist’s style on Like Exploding Stones or Fo Sho but also strips it back to the folky finger-picked melodies that Kurt Vile has mastered on Jesus on a Wire and Cool Water. (watch my moves) is an extended breath, the exhale of an artist who moves outside of the mainstream and refuses to change his pace. Walking steadily and outside of the box, Vile has for sure by the time of the release of the ninth record strolled his way into the listeners heart with a crooked smile, long hair, and a vocal twang that cannot be mistaken.  (Liv Toerkell)

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Mastergrief – ‘Fey

Sounds like … a strong sense of identity and a whole lot of vibe.

On their debut album Fey, Mastergrief flex their muscles and explores rich textures and exciting sonic territories. The result is seven songs, which sound unhurried but never complacent, frail but assured. Mastergrief vary the same formula to create a consistent atmosphere across all seven tracks: songs are carried by subdued drums and vast synthesizers, with knotty guitar lines and washed-out chords howling in the background, held together by mournful falsetto. There are also moments when the band embraces a rawer setting, such as the angular chords at the end of Slipper.

That the band is worshipping on the altar of Radiohead here is so obvious it’s even mentioned in the press release, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Mastergrief still sound like a band who is very much interested in crafting their own sound, which is especially obvious in the centerpiece of the record: Asterion is a patient ballad, spacious and ethereal, that shows the band paying tribute to their rolemodels while outgrowing them at the same time. It is by far the most focused piece, carried tastefully by horn arrangements and frail guitar licks. If this is where the band is heading, it is a journey worth following. (Nils Heutehaus)

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Lizzy McAlpine – ‘five seconds flat’

Sounds like … matured and pop-tinged impressions of love.

It does take guts to shake off an entire established style of music, but in the end, it was this exact transformation that enabled US-singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine to come through with her sophomore  record five seconds flat. Way more pop-fuelled and leaving the mellow indie folk attitude of her firstborn 2020 debut Give Me A Minute, her new material has a clear set-up in mind: to write about love in the most honest way possible, and to leave her previous terrain as a folk artist. “That album was very much who I was then”, the songwriter notes in our recent interview, and “in making this album, I really wanted to show the growth and that I’m not the same person who I was”. 

Catchy hooks sure dominate the lot of the album, as on an ego thing, all my ghosts or the FINNEAS-featured hate to be lame, though contrasted by soothing ballad material like doomsday, weird or the stunning second-to-last piano-led piece chemtrails. A grander production however speaks through the entire record, which is not only fitting the goal of McAlpine to shake off her initial folk attire, but it also ties in with the broader concept of singing about love in its various guises, be it getting over a broken heart, starting anew or battling the ghosts of your past. The highlight of this record then lies in the fragile and yet explosive potential that songs like the initial doomsday or later firearm carry within them. Both building up from a tender groundwork, tumbling into progressive and ferocious choruses, especially the latter firearm showcases a vibrant crescendo one has likely not heard since Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever: “What a joke, was it all just an act? / I hate that it took me so long to react / You had me convinced that you loved me”, McAlpine roars out of the bridge and it the tremor is delivered with such bravery, that we almost forget the hurtful circumstances out of which these lines arise. In the end, five seconds flat manages to navigate through these opposed poles and succeeds to spark off sincerity without getting trivial about the subject. (Andreas Peters)

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Bilderbuch – ‘Gelb ist das Feld’

Sounds like … spending a warm summer day in utopian bliss.

Austrian four-piece Bilderbuch have easily been one of the continent’s most exciting and unpredictable groups of the past decade. With their sound constantly moving forward and being way more inspired by international productions rather than the ones of their home country the guys from Vienna definitely shaped the musical landscape of Europe’s German-speaking part and even reached beyond that. Bilderbuch are cosmopolitans that easily switch between languages and musical influences – and following a longer break of almost three years their seventh full-length Gelb ist das Feld (‘yellow is the field’) underlines that by unravelling their most cohesive work so far. While the previous two records mea culpa from 2018 and 2019’s Vernissage My Heart flirted with cloud rap and trippy psychedelia this new album travels even further back in the history of pop music. Geld ist das Feld sees the band flirting with guitar-driven pop that really feels like it takes the best from the 70s, 80s and 90s radio stations. Somewhere between Prefab Sprout, Tame Impala, U2 and maybe even early 90s Roxette, Bilderbuch embrace honest cheesiness and pop sensibility but manage to deliver it with dignity and a high level of dedication.

Bergauf opens the album with bright and melodic guitars, romantic slight guitars and lots of uplifting words by frontman Maurice Ernst. “I eat that fruit, I drink that juice” he euphorically states while climbing up that mountain and I can literally see him spreading out his arms on top of that said mountain. For Rent and Dates continue that feeling for bright early 90s pop and further highlight that new found love for organic instrumentation. Everything feels like a natural flow, the sounds are warm, the guitars are soft and so are the harmonic voices. Of course, there’s room for a “Shalala” in the dreamy Nahuel Huapi and tracks like Klima and the rocking I’m Not Gonna Lie can’t shake off certain Beatles references. Blütenstaub is a tender druggy lullaby while La Pampa flirts with dazzling Americana and Country Music influences. The sound of Bilderbuch remains surprising but honest. If you’re falling in love this spring then this is your album. You don’t have to be fluent in German (there’s even more English this time than before) to dig Ernst’s messages. “Gelb ist das Feld / where I’m gonna lay you down” he sings in the closing title-track and yes, you really want to join him and the gang following these fourteen life-embracing songs. Moving away from the claustrophobic urban vibes of the big city, Bilderbuch found their new strength in the heart of Mother Nature and crawling out into the world again following two years of the pandemic this really feels the right record for the right time. Optimism is not a crime and if that’s the case, consider these Viennese gentlemen guilty as hell. (Norman Fleischer)

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